Honda, Yamaha to cooperate on electric bike-sharing pilot project

The Honda-Yamaha tech team-up announced last fall is the driving force behind an interesting electric bike-sharing pilot project in Japan.

The team-up’s goal, according to last fall’s press release, was to get manufacturers (not just Honda and Yamaha) working together on electric motorcycle technology, particularly with the goal of improving the battery systems.

Since lack of battery range and incompatibility between platforms are the major problems holding back electric motorcycles, the fact that Honda and Yamaha are publicly recognizing the problem and trying to do something about it is significant. Nobody else is working together right now.

The new pilot project will run in Saitama City in Japan, and will see participants (you must apply before you enter the program) using E-Vino units to ride around the town, with a battery-swap program running in addition to the electric scooter rentals. Presumably, this is where Honda’s tie-in comes in.

The battery swap is probably the most interesting part of this deal, since vehicle rental programs are hardly a new concept. The idea of a universal swappable motorcycle battery, though, could revolutionize the industry, if implemented correctly.

For now, don’t expect this project to result in electric superbikes from Big Red, as Honda’s press releases have stressed from Day 1 that this team-up is all about promoting “Class 1” vehicles, which is “A category defined by the Road Vehicles Act of Japan as ‘vehicles equipped with two or more wheels and an engine with total displacement of 50 cc or less or an electric motor with rated output of 0.60 kW or less.’ “

In other words, this project is all about commuter-friendly step-throughs and other similarly unspectacular machines. However, these sort of machines helped the Japanese manufacturers revolutionize the industry back in the 1960s, and if the Big Four plan to do so again, this is likely where they need to start.

Read Honda’s full press release about the project here.

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